Corey Harris

Defense Date


Graduation Date

Spring 2011


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name





McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

George S. Worgul

Committee Member

Maureen O'Brien

Committee Member

Elizabeth Agnew Cochran


Catholic family, Domestic church


This dissertation is an attempt to reconcile the Roman Catholic theological understanding that the Christian family is a domestic church (ecclesia domestica) with a realistic demographic and sociological portrait of the American family while remaining faithful to Catholic moral teaching. The first chapter analyzes several works of the Magisterium from the time of Vatican II that have specifically referenced the domestic church. These documents collectively show that the domestic church is a sacramental and ecclesial reality although the theology is commonly espoused under the subheading of marriage and referencing a specifically nuclear form of family. The following chapter analyzes the thoughts of various theologians by approaching the topic thematically. Evidence is found of two distinct schools of thought: those who believe the theology of domestic church espoused by the Magisterium is by definition too restrictive and those who agree with the Magisterium's teaching that bases the domestic church within a theology of marriage excluding non-nuclear families. The following chapter analyzes demographic trends, sociology of family, and sociology of family and religion. Demographic trends show the family moving away from a standard of nuclear form. Sociological views shows that myriad family forms are valid if supported properly. Also, religion and families are shown to be mutually supportive of each other so long as religions and families perceive positive benefits in their relationship. The final chapter argues that the term "domestic church" is a sacramental, ecclesial, sociological, and moral term. The domestic church is sacramental because of what it is (a Church) and what it does (shares the Church's mission). To that end, it is baptism which begins membership in the Church and therefore baptism that is the root of the domestic church. As such, all family forms composed of baptized members that are not inherently contrary to Catholic moral teaching can be considered domestic churches. Families that remain excluded are done so on an ecclesial basis not on a sacramental basis. Ongoing participation in the Church and conformity in lifestyle to Church teaching are the basic requirements for consideration as a domestic church.